I’ve built a quick 2012 Essentials lab machine on my HyperV host at home. The intent is to figure out the bits and pieces that are new or unique to 2012 Essentials so that we have an idea how to take it forward with customers. 2012 Essentials (hereafter called 2012E) is the follow-on to SBS 2011 Essentials and has many of the same features plus new features.

Installation is very similar to installing any other Server 2012 O/S with the exception that there is a specific set of wizards that run AFTER the base install that set up all of the unique features of 2012E. The install itself takes about an hour and there are at least three reboots involved as part of the process.

Here we go with the tour and commentary …

Login screen after install:

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Set up forces you to create two users — an admin user AND a regular user.

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Pretty standard stuff, really although there are a few goodies thrown in … like a Cert Authority …

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And, of course, the Dashboard …

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OK, it is NOT much like SBS! That said, all of the functionality expected is in the various wizards, As you can see there are a number of items that can be handled from the dashboard …

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Two choices for integrating email servers … Office 365 integration OR integration with an on-premise Exchange.

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Ooo, this is nice! Built-in integration with Azure Backup! (And this is not the built-in Windows backup, that piece is accessed from the Setup Wizard).

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Quick Status is just that, not a painful GUI-on-Powershell like in SBS.

The Anywhere Access in 2012E is quite interesting. It sets up both an RWA-like Web access portal AND a very cool SSL-VPN that sets up on client machines automatically when the "Connect" utility is run to join a client to a domain. This all sets up in the backend so it becomes pretty transparent to the clients. Here are a few screens from the RWA. NOTE: RWA expects to have a proper third-party SSL cert installed. I have created my lab machine with a self-cert generated via IIS (not available via the wizards) but this is not a "supported" config.

Here is the RWA landing page (which can be customised a la SBS RWA landing pages):

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Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Remote Web Access

https://192.168.18.117/Remote/logon?ReturnUrl=%2fremote

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I LIKE the Tablet/Desktop view! Here is the dashboard after logging in:

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Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Home

https://192.168.18.117/remote

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Very similar to the dashboard in SBS2011 although now with the "flat" ModernUI look to it. The "Tablet" view narrows the page:

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Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Home

https://192.168.18.117/remote

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And here are screenshots from my Galaxy Tab that confirm access at this level:

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And because I want to see what happens with RDP access from my tablet I’m going to join a Windows 7 machine to the 2012E domain.

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Note that it says Win7 and Win8. I’m assuming XP and Vista are out to lunch. And also note the Mac software download!

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And they ain’t kididing about the time required! Don’t know why, seems a bit silly, but my VM has been "verifying and installing" for at least 10 minutes and there’s no indication that it will be finished anytime soon.

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There is a very nice built-in Client backup tool in 2012E, these settings are part of that tool.

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This also seems to take its own sweet time …

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And here is what we end up with on the user’s desktop:

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This is all very similar to what we saw in SBS 2011 Essentials. The Dashboard is for server management while Launchpad is for the local user.

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I have logged in on the dashboard as the admin user and it takes me directly to the Server 2012E dashboard:

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The other items on the Launchpad do just what they say.

Now, to set up a user with various rights you have to go back to the server dashboard and go to Users:

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And then the user has access in RWA:

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Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Home

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BLAST! I can’t connect with RDP over RWA as I used a "self cert"! I fixed this by following this blog post:

http://forum.wegotserved.com/index.php/topic/24772-windows-server-2012-essentials-w2012e-anywhere-access-with-own-homemade-certificate/

But this is REALLY only for testing purposes, you should not do this for production. Also, sadly, there is still no RDP access via the "Computers" link for machines other that Windows boxen; my Galaxy Tab can’t run the RDP. I COULD connect via VPN and then use other RDP tools on my tablet to gain access if needed.

I borrowed the Surface RT from Sean and did some testing. I imported the "ROOT CA" cert from the Server 2012 E box into the Surface, pointed the Surface DNS connection at the 2012E box and connected to the Remote site. The Surface "trusted" the cert I applied ot the remote site and I was able to login. From the remote site I was able to connect to my Win7 VM via the published ActiveX RDP connection. I was also able to open various documents from the shared folders (neither of which I was able to do with my Galaxy Tab, BTW).

Server 2012 Essentials–a quick “ what’s up with that”
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